Hoof, Jef van


Hoof, Jef van

Symphony no. 3 in E flat major (extra large size, first print)



Hoof, Jef van

Symphony no. 3 in E flat major (extra large size, first print)


(Antwerp, 8 May 1886 – Antwerp, 24 April 1959)

The Third Symphony was created in highly difficult circumstances. It was written in 1944 and 1945, meaning at the end of World War II, which, on a personal level, was also a very unpleasant time for Jef Van Hoof. The composer himself described it as ‘very special circumstances’. In 1942, he was named director of the Royal Flemish Conservatoire in his hometown, where he had received musical training himself, and where he had been working as a professor of harmony since 1936. After the liberation in 1944, he was arrested for collaboration and imprisoned. At first he was acquitted of all blame and later, after the appeal, he only received a symbolic punishment, but he lost his position.
This was all it took to inspire a few commentators to search this piece for traces of those dramatic events. However, Van Hoof, who was almost sixty at the time, never commented on the matter. He did indeed consider the symphony as a purely abstract genre, in which he carefully avoided all so-called ‘musical descriptions’ (something he did use in his orchestral suites). Obviously, he remained loyal to his post-romantic musical language, as well as to a classical four-part structure, to which he added flavour with personal touches.
The opening (Moderato) contains a fine organic build-up. After a calm start in which the strings take the lead, it slowly and lushly flourishes into all the sections of the orchestra. The main theme dominates, almost giving this part the allure of a series of variations. Also remarkable here is the role of the brass section.
The compelling slow part (Tempo di Marcia Funebra) in B minor is dominated by a subdued theme of five notes that is introduced in the kettledrums and adopted by the trombones in a type of chorale. This page in particular led to the previously mentioned references to the war. It does, however, avoid all sentimentality.
As a form of contrast, the third part (Scherzo), sounds very bright and optimistic. It modulates from G minor to G major. The composer uses the ‘Russian’ time signature of 5/4, for which he had a certain preference. It is frantically maintained throughout, creating a sharply dynamic and energetic profile.
The finale (Allegro) returns to the main key and gives a cheerful impression. It almost seems like a mischievous game of cat and mouse, containing references to the themes of the previous parts.

The work was signed at van Hoof’s home ‘Spokenhof’ in Boechout (province of Antwerp) and was dated in a very simple way: ‘1945’, without any further specification. The autographic manuscript is preserved at the Letterenhuis (House of Literature) in Antwerp (signature: 154.006).

Read full preface / Komplettes Vorwort lesen > HERE

Score Data

Score No.


Special Edition

The Flemish Music Collection



Performance materials



First print



Special Size

380 x 270 mm

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